• April 30, 2015

    The Care Center: Steaming Cups of Chai

    I was a recent seminary graduate steeped in Biblical languages, systematic theology, and family systems theory. And here I was, visiting a family I who was working on learning survival English for shopping, transportation, and work. I couldn’t communicate all those things I had learned to them. At times it was frustrating to make awkward, sometimes mostly silent, visits over cups of steaming chai. But the smiles and hug the next time I saw the matriarch at church told me that my presence in her home was important to her...

  • April 28, 2015

    Church Cases

    We are near the end of the semester and my students in the Capstone Integrative Seminar are finishing their Case Study Portfolios–indeed, today I will be sending around these Portfolios to the panelists who will review them ahead of interviewing the students about their work. Each student received a ministry Case Study scenario at the end of March. Since then they have been analyzing the case from every possible biblical, theological, historical, and practical angle in order to come up with a wise, discerning pastoral approach to the situation.

  • April 28, 2015

    Book Review--Prairie, by Walter J. Muilenburg

    This year--this school year--three boys from Palo Alto High School, one of the nation's best secondary schools--walked across the street to the railroad tracks and stood in front of passing trains. Three kids, in Silicon Valley, where the average home is worth three million. Such suicide clusters are real, and they don't happen only where the pressures to succeed are mammoth...On one hand parents claim they're allowing their kids to just be kids, while on the other they hold relentless expectations...

  • April 27, 2015

    Enough

    “Moses said to them, ‘This is what the Lord commanded: “Tomorrow is to be a day of Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.”’ This is the first use of the word “Sabbath” in Scripture. It’s a whole new concept for Israel–for a people who have been barely even rescued from generations of slavery, for a people whose captivity has taught them the narrative, “you’ve got to scrabble for everything you’re going to get.”...

  • April 22, 2015

    Conventionality Is not Morality

    For Brontë, Austen essentially lacked passion. And though I think Brontë did not accurately assess the level of Austen’s critique, I can also understand why Brontë—raised on the wildly emotive Romantic literature of Byron and Coleridge—might have undervalued Austen’s more decorous barbs. More than that, I want to suggest that it might come down to a difference in the sense of being a Christian writer. Although both were daughters of clergymen, only Brontë explicitly saw herself speaking out of a prophetic tradition...

  • April 22, 2015

    The Care Center: A Sense of Eternity

    Before my wife and I partnered with CRWM and moved to Vienna I spent a little more than a year serving as a hospital chaplain. Most of this time I worked in the ICU and was an intimate witness to death most days of the week. It may sound strange to some, but it’s indeed a profound privilege to be an intimate witness to the death of a human being...

  • April 21, 2015

    "The Loss of Turtle Island"

    Last Sunday at a local church we learned something about Native American history in a simulation titled "The Loss of Turtle Island." As everyone knows, the winners gain the rights to tell the story. Most Minnesotans probably knew very little about the Dakota War of 1862 until the 150th anniversary just a few years ago, even though the massive bloodshed on both sides of that conflict created an event staggeringly important in the state's early history. Most of us would rather not know those things...

  • April 21, 2015

    Participating, not Initiating

    When it comes to sharing the Good News, I’m tempted to think that I’m the one who’s supposed to make people interested in Jesus and matters of faith. Believing that, however, betrays how I think I’m more important than I really am! Yes, God uses me and you to do important work in his Kingdom, but he’s always a step ahead of us – getting us ready and preparing situations for our arrival on the scene... 

  • April 20, 2015

    Delight

    “God saw all that he had made and it was very good.” God is on a roll. God is on a six-day winning streak. Firing on all cylinders. Making this. It’s good. Making that. It’s good. Boom, boom, boom. I can’t speak for you but when I’m (very rarely) in that kind of space, in the middle of good work, my impulse is to keep going. Why would I rest if I’m not burned out? Why would I rest if I’m not tired. Why would I rest if I have strength and power and ingenuity to keep going? So then why did God stop? Why did God survey a six-day marathon of epic goodness and go, “Yup. That’s good.

  • April 20, 2015

    Marriage is Business!

    Life is always an adventure here and I'm often perplexed by the ministries God calls me to be a part of in Soroti.  On Saturday I was asked to come and guide a church on Biblical Business and Marriage.  At first I was confused about how those two things go together, but it was so cool to see how God orchestrated a one day marriage seminar, under the guise of Biblical Business. We began the day by looking at people who are successful in business. And why?! And then we discussed people who are successful in marriage and why. Businesses need good foundations...

  • April 17, 2015

    Rhetoric

    What she told me--and what I never forgot--was how what she was taught affected what she was. Her parents were pure Zuni, in thought and culture and religious practice. Therefore, going to a Christian school meant she had to unlearn almost forcibly what her Christian teachers taught her. And that was difficult. It was, in fact, traumatic, not because she had to shift priorities and allegiances (that too!), but because she simply loved her parents...

     

  • April 15, 2015

    Forgiveness

    So I don't know Gunter Grass or his work, despite my Ph.D., in English, despite teaching lit for forty years, despite being surrounded this morning and every morning by books. What I know of him is his name, his Nobel prize, and the incredible scandal of his 2006 confession that he--Germany's most prophetic voice--was a member of the SS during WWII. He was among Hitler's most loyal beasts, a fact he'd tried for most of his life to keep buried. Coming clean just about ruined him, as well it should have...

  • April 15, 2015

    Trusting vs Glory-Seeking

    How many times do we try to seek glory but hedge our bets because we’re not willing to fully trust in God? How many times do we try to hedge our bets instead of using what we’re given to serve God? We’ll do something if we think we can succeed, but we’re not willing to put all we have on the line to serve God. There are many times where we hold back (me included) in fully giving ourselves to serving God. We wonder what others might think. We wonder what will happen if we fail. We get afraid and hedge our bets...

  • April 15, 2015

    Sailing the Wind of the Spirit

    In my 25 years of being a believer in Christ, I have heard many appeals that demand I grow in maturity. I have been told by folks directly, and I have felt their unspoken attitude that demands I grow. I have also been loved well by individuals who encouraged me to grow deeper and in my personal holiness. The problem is that all to often I have not been told how to do it. I find this frustrating. I know many of you do also. Let me share what I have learned about growing in holiness...

  • April 13, 2015

    Each Sunday a Little Easter

    After a season of penitence and preparation, the church knew that one feast day of celebration wasn’t going to cut it. They gave us a whole season! Then they supplemented the Jewish practice of Saturday Sabbath with a decidedly Christian practice of Sunday celebration. The Jewish Saturday Sabbath commemorates the 7th day of creation on which God rested. It is a day given to us for rest and the enjoyment of creation. The Christian “Lord’s Day” commemorates the 8th day of creation. A day given to us for the celebration of Jesus own death and resurrection.

  • April 13, 2015

    Billy Graham

    It’s fair to say that America’s Pastor airs every significant encomium, criticism, and summary judgment made of Billy Graham over his 60-year career, and that it comes down on the positive side of the balance sheet at every legitimate opportunity. The book measures Graham by his intentions, context, and public record, and finds him on balance to have been a good and decent man, preaching the Gospel with clarity and integrity to the vast mass of ordinary American people—and to millions more around the world. Grant gives close analysis of Graham’s more controversial aspects...

  • April 9, 2015

    He is Risen! Now What?

    When I was young, I enjoyed reading “choose your own adventure” books.  After every page or two you get a couple of options: if the characters take the road to the left, turn to page 2 or if the characters take the road to the right, turn to page 8.  Each book contains many stories, and depending on the choices you make you get different endings. The gospel of Mark’s account of the resurrection (Mark 16:1-8) feels something like a choose your own ending.  It doesn’t feel quite finished...

  • April 9, 2015

    A Widow's Ducks

    She’s caring for her daughter’s baby and for her aging mother. Her husband left her for another woman, effectively leaving her a widow. How can she earn her own livelihood, as a poor widow in northern Bangladesh? Well, it turns out that Bangladesh has a lot of water.  Many ponds last through the dry season and are replenished by the monsoon rains. And, there is a special kind of duck, that lays up to 300 eggs a year... 

  • April 8, 2015

    Reflections on Spring Break: Getting a Glimpse of Gospel Power

    Chipped paint. Water damage. Trash strewn about. Barred windows and barbed wire fencing. This was what the house on Grenada Street was like. But it could have described a number of the houses in the West Jackson neighborhood. West Jackson is a broken neighborhood that has been “marred by poverty, crime and unemployment,” and faces “chronic economic and social challenges.”1  It is a neighborhood without a sense of community, a sense of worth, a sense of hope.

  • April 7, 2015

    Adventures of the Floyd River Gang

    Last October, they'd put it up on the north side of the Puddle Jumper, a brush-y mess that left a corner of some guy's cornfield under water and turned a perfectly ordinary piece of ground into ducky wetland. On our daily constitutionals, we watched the water come up until one day--voila!--the whole ungainly mess was gone, wiped out.  Farmer John or Ed or Arie had taken his John Deere out and put the beavers out of work. You can't have a gang of rodents ruining harvest, for pity sake...

  • April 7, 2015

    Reflections on Easter 2015

    Easter, which celebrates Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead, is Christianity's most important holiday. Easter is a time for reflections: on the past, the present, and the future. I did that again this year, after an unusual (at least for me) and an unholy (for many) Holy Week. The past for me was remembering many deaths during the past year. I lost several friends and acquaintances, as you no doubt did too. I also lost my mother, who died the week after Easter last year. The memory of Easter sustained and comforted my family at the time...

     

  • April 6, 2015

    The Empty Tomb (Apparently is Not Enough)

    We tend to think of Easter morning as a joyful, blessed morning as Mary and the other women visit the tomb, discover it is empty and run to tell the disciples the "Good News." We imagine scenes of celebration, and shouts of joy as his followers proclaim that "He is risen!!!" We have been lured into thinking that it was only Thomas who was the classic example of doubt and unbelief regarding the news of the resurrection when he said: "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were..."

  • April 6, 2015

    Saturday of Harrowed Hearts

    Holy Saturday is the most in-between place of all, though, because even the scriptural drama holds its breath. There’s nowhere to place ourselves, only silence. The disciples and the women “rested according to the commandment,” says Luke (23:56), and that’s all we know. Jesus is in-between, too, between the burial and the rising, silent in the grave. As Gregory Anderson Love wrote this past Sunday, recent theology has attempted to grapple with the idea that the second person of the Trinity, from Friday afternoon...

  • April 6, 2015

    Creation Care in India

    Sense of place. Caring for the spot of the Earth that  the Lord gave your family. Making it a better than when you started. That’s a feeling many have but don’t know how. Sometimes they are too poor to even own the land they farm. That’s the case of many farmers in NE India. In their traditional way they would cut the trees, plant for a couple of years, and then let the forest grow back...

  • April 1, 2015

    In the Shadow of the Cross Is Shalom

    Restorative justice is not just for people in prison. It’s a worldview for every person for whom Jesus died. Recently on a Crossroad Connection TV episode, I interviewed Teresa Weatherall Neal, the superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools, who discussed actions she is taking to employ restorative justice rather than retributive justice within the public school system. In her experience, restorative justice practices transform students through fostering conflict resolution.

  • April 1, 2015

    Holy Week--Psalm 118 for Easter

    For 500 years "De steen die door de tempelbowers" was sung first crack out of the box at Easter morning worship, or so says Sietze Buning in Purpaleanie. Seriously--500 years. First thing. Easter morning. It's a line from Psalm 118 at a time when Dutch Calvinist churches sang nothing in worship but psalms. Once a church like Middleburg, Iowa, found itself on the emerald edge of the North American Great Plains, however, even 500-year old traditions began to die.

  • March 31, 2015

    Christ-Centered: Who Would Jesus Center? WWJC? (part 2)

    If Jesus places into the center those on the periphery, and removes himself from the center, maybe once again we are left with needing to reconsider the term "Christ-centered."  Christ clearly wants others to be the center and not himself.  If we are to follow Jesus being "Christ-centered" might not be a very good goal.  Can we wrap our minds around the idea that Jesus does not want to be the center? How often do we seek to place in the center ourselves and our needs?  If we are honest, are we looking out for others our ourselves as we go through the world?...

  • March 31, 2015

    Doing Justice with Ex-offenders

    He was released from prison at the discretion of the parole board and a judge. Like so many others, his freedom was short-lived. Six months after his release, he went on a crime spree, robbing a number of gas stations and convenience stores at gunpoint, a gun that turned out to be a BB gun. What happened? Without even reading on I knew. He simply couldn’t survive on the outside. While he is culpable for his actions, it is hard for me not to wonder what society, especially the church, could have done to help...

  • March 31, 2015

    Joseph 4: "Haunted"

    One of the things that makes the story of Joseph so appealing and memorable is how the people in it change. In my message yesterday, we saw how Joseph’s brothers are confronted with the opportunity to do the same thing to Benjamin as they did to Joseph. Years before, Joseph’s brothers abandoned him when they sold him as a slave and now they have the opportunity to also ditch Benjamin in Egypt. This option is presented to them by the Egyptian governor as a quick and easy way to solve their problems and head back home to Canaan.

  • March 30, 2015

    Are We "Salty" to the Lost?

    In Luke 15, Jesus declares the heart of God for the lost. With the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost sons, Jesus declares God great concern and pursuing love for the lost. What is often missed is how he concludes what we read as Luke 14.  "Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall it be restored?" What is he talking about?...

  • March 27, 2015

    Pray for Us to Be Patient

    Just because we are missionaries, we are not perfect. We are far from it. Particularly, I need to learn patience. Things that have been trying my patience in the last few months: - People demanding that we give them our dog, or give them money, when they see us walking or see us in town. Often they demand this rudely without even greeting us first. What would be extremely offensive to do to another Ugandan, they seem to think is okay to do with us because we are foreigners...

  • March 25, 2015

    Making Space

    I’ve been thinking a good deal of late about how we give “space” as a gift to each other. In a society that crowds and over-connects, that resists solitude, perhaps it’s difficult for us to not believe that the solution to every situation, especially painful ones, isn’t more togetherness. And that certainly has a very important function. But I think it also sometimes leads us to wrongly believe that it is our presence that is doing the ultimate work of healing and transformation...

  • March 25, 2015

    March 24, 2015 - Along the Way ...

    Sunday I talked a little about "the cup" which Jesus had to drink in order to do God's will.  It was a difficult cup; a cup full of suffering and pain, which lead to His death, and culminated in His victorious resurrection from the dead.   It was a "cup" that only Jesus could drink because only Jesus was the eternal Son of God in human flesh, and only Jesus was without sin. This got me thinking about what that "cup" means for you and I.   Jesus told James and John that they would indeed drink from this "cup" but that would not guarantee a high position in Jesus' kingdom.

  • March 25, 2015

    Beauty along a Jericho Road

    When Kathie and I arrived to the Lawndale community in 1978, one of the finer business establishments found at the end of one of Lawndale’s beautiful boulevards was notoriously named: ‘The Bucket of Blood.’ People frequented its spirits served and often returned home with a reconfigured face. While Jesus was not referring to this west side tavern, he did reference a certain Jewish cross road, called the Jericho Road. This was the bloody boulevard which connected Israel to Samaria.

  • March 23, 2015

    When Certainty Is Wrong

    Have you ever asked yourself if you are truly saved? How can you be certain that Christianity is true? How can we be sure that the Bible is true and that God exists? If such doubts come across your mind from time to time, you are not alone. Every believer faces some form of uncertainty about faith at some point. Many books have been written to address those questions, for example, Josh McDowell’s best-seller Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Here’s Life Publishers Inc., 1979).

  • March 23, 2015

    A Bag of Dolls

    It’s one of the oddest sights. A huge sack of used dolls, dozens of smiling faces and bodies pressed against the side of a transparent plastic bag with an assortment of loose appendages settled at the bottom. The dolls are castoffs from North America, either thrown out or given away by families as their children outgrow their toys. Through various commercial distribution channels, the dolls, as with clothing and other toys, eventually make their way to countries like Nicaragua where they are sold to vendors who in turn sort, clean, dress, and resell them to their customers...

  • March 23, 2015

    Church as Embassy

    This Sunday morning I’ll be speaking about the phrase “Ministry of Reconciliation” as found in the II Corinthians 5:18. Rather than write out all my notes for Sunday, I thought I would share a couple of powerful quotes that have re-emerged for me. As I wrestled through what it means to live out this call to the ministry of reconciliation, I was struck by the juxtaposition between how the church grew in the first century compared to today. In the church planting world, we are encouraged to ‘launch large’ with lights, camera, and action!

  • March 20, 2015

    Christ-Centered: Who Would Jesus Center? WWJC? (part 1)

    Is it possible that by seeking to move Jesus to the center of our lives or our organizations we are in fact not seeking the Kingdom of God?  If we are called to be Christ-like-ones - which is what Christian means after all - we should be following after Jesus' example and seeking to move to the center the lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners, and men with withered hands in our world?  Could we be following Jesus more by seeking to center those on the margins than we would be by seeking to bring Jesus to the center?...

  • March 20, 2015

    Kaberamaido TLT - Overcoming Family Violence

    The most encouraging part of every TLT session is when we have the privilege of hearing the pastors report on what God has done, how he has used them in the implementation of their action plans. A pastor taught his church about stewarding the time that God has given to us. The church listened to what he taught and they began to keep proper time management in their worship services. Before, people came at all different times, so they would start late, and that meant they would get home late.

  • March 17, 2015

    Please Be Disturbed

    There I sat in a room crowded with science profs, Christians, all of them talking about evolution. Like Republican politicians these days, I don't know much all about the subject. I can read and I can think (I think), but my inclinations don't take me deeply into the nature of nature. Just don't. "We can choose what we write," Flannery O'Connor once said, "but we can't choose what we write well" (don't ask me for chapter and verse).

  • March 17, 2015

    Nice Versus Needy

    I can not tell you how often this was expressed in my growing up years by those in my church, youth group, and family. It did not take long to see that there was some disagreement as to what "nice" means, but there was agreement that Christian people should be nice. One of the most shocking revelations of my life occurred when I began to read the teachings of Jesus. I discovered that no where did he command believers to be nice. Loving, yes.  Nice, not so much. In fact, I discovered that the goal of my life and the goal of the church was something very different than being a nice person.

  • March 17, 2015

    Losing Your Mother Tongue

    I just read this headline, “North and South Koreans are speaking increasingly different languages; After a 70 year divide, scholars say about a third of everyday words used in the two countries is different.” As I read these words I thought about how people of faith have lost their ability to hear what God is saying through creation/nature/culture.

  • March 17, 2015

    Even If It Takes 20 Years...Let's Start!

    As a teacher of teachers who serve Christ in Nigeria, I explore with my students what is means to teach Christianly.  At seminars and workshops that I lead, this is a common question that comes up. Is there a Christian curriculum? My answer to that is YES and NO. When we look at what is means to teach Christianly, we are talking about having a Biblical worldview.  We are talking about what it means to put on the eyeglasses of scripture – a prescription which allows us to see the world more clearly and make sense of it...

  • March 12, 2015

    Broken but Whole

    I loathe the phrase “broken home.” When I tell people of my family history, of the divorce of my parents, I hear people say “It must be hard to come from a broken home” or “I didn’t know you were from a broken home.” My ears and soul hear that this way “I didn’t know you’re messed up than me” and “There must be something wrong with you.” I know that’s not the intention, but that’s how it comes across...

  • March 12, 2015

    Purging the Floor

    “Judgment begins at the house of God,” Spurgeon says in his explanation of this verse of Psalm 50.  “The trial of the visible people of God will be a most awful ceremonial.  He will thoroughly purge his floor.” If Charles Spurgeon is right in his appraisal of what Asaph claims as a vision, then, in this song of praise to the righteous judge, God is cleaning house. “He will discern between his nominal and his real people,” Spurgeon says, “and that in open court, the whole universe looking on.

  • March 11, 2015

    Joseph 1: "Only in Your Dreams"

    There’s no easy way to put it: Joseph’s family is a mess. His father plays favorites and remains indifferent to the jealousy created by his favoritism. His brothers’ hatred of him escalates into a plot to murder him. Joseph himself comes off as a brat as he struts about in his ornate robe, tattles on his brothers, and indiscriminately describes his dreams of ascending to prominence. It makes me wonder what Joseph’s story is doing in the Bible – at least the part about him and his father and brothers. Why is so much space devoted to this dysfunctional family?...

  • March 10, 2015

    Laos: Deep Desire to Learn - What Happens to that Hunger in the USA?

    n the remote mountains of northern Laos World Renew works with people who, until this generation, never had the chance to go to school.  Now, we are able to bring elementary schools to the villages! The Akha women in this picture of a village development committee meeting are using photos to help them prioritize their village actions. They wish that they could at least speak the majority language of Laos so that they could participate with more confidence in markets and other aspects of social life...

  • March 9, 2015

    I'm Done with Broken

    During Lent, I expect to hear about sin and suffering, but I’m starting to get tired of the word “broken.” Also “brokenness,” “broken world,” “broken people,” and “messy, broken world/people.” Overused words descend into cliché, and I think we might be approaching that territory here. To support my case, I present evidence. I discovered 63 quotations tagged “brokenness” on Goodreads. I know we need shorthands, but I wonder if “broken” is getting a little lazy, a little reductive. I wonder if “broken” allows us to avoid honest self-examination and less pleasant descriptors...

  • March 5, 2015

    Why University Students Should Know Sabbath

    What are God’s purposes for man?  To conform him to the image of God. This is accomplished in the Sabbath as we gather corporately to worship the Lord our God, to receive his sustaining grace through the Word and Spirit, and find ourselves refreshed for another week–a week of witnessing, of temptation, of opportunity, and of struggle. It is also accomplished in resting from our everyday work and enjoying those things which point to the eternal Rest of the New Kingdom.

  • March 4, 2015

    The Women's Car, and Some Cautious Thoughts on Religion

    The women’s car is one of the most fascinating places in the city. The trains are packed, and though women can ride in any car on the train, I’d rather be squashed against an assuming Egyptian grandma than a seventeen-year-old boy. The process of shoving yourself and other people into a crowded metro car involves a lot of bodily contact. So I ride the women’s car.

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